Anyone with an iPad and small kids knows that it's great for long car trips. The games and videos can be a real sanity saver on long car trips, but I thought I'd cover some of the apps I find kids love that aren't games and may not even have really been intended for kids. One word of disclosure. Some of these are based on a sample size of one.
iStopMotion is, as far as I know, the first app for the iPad specifically designed for making stop motion videos. This app and some lego minifigures can keep a kid occupied and happy for hours, while honing his story-telling skills.
123D Scrulpt from the folks at Autodesk is an amazing 3D design package. You can start from a variety of basic shape and push, pull, pinch, layer, smooth and sharpen areas with a touch of the finger. Once you're satisfied with the shape, you can paint it and even map bitmaps onto the surface. One word of caution though. The 3D models can take up a fair amount of space, and when your kid is feeling creative (like making all the creaturs in Jelly Defense, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies) he can fill up that flash RAM in no time.
YaRec is a simple and straightforward audio recorder. I can remember spending many hours with my brother and cousin hunched over an cassette recorder making fake radio broadcasts. Alas, I don't think any of those tapes survived much more self-concious teen years. Even in the day of easy video recording, kids can have a lot of fun just recording themselves. And it makes great blackmail material later on when they're teens.
Solve Pro is nice calculator app that I put on the iPad for my own use. I'd forgotten how much fun I'd had as a kid just playing around with numbers on my Dad's calculator. The next generation is no different. There are a lot of calculator apps out there, but this one is simple, very colorful, and with a complete feature set (at least for my needs).
Algebra Touch might take some selling. When is a good time to start learning algebra? How about three or four? I'm not saying he's factoring polynomials, but this nice app let's you get hands-on with rearranging equations and seeing how things like commutation, association, and distribution work. I doubt he'll be following through the whole program and becoming an algebra 101 wiz by first grade, but having those things seem strangely familiar will go a long way toward keeping them from being scary when they come up later. Now I just have one wish: I don't see why there can't be an equivalent app for high school geometry. If you've found one, let's hear about it.
Halftone is something I mentioned before. It's a nifty little app that lets you take a picture, and a capton, and turn it into what looks just like a frame out of a graphic novel. It seems so simple, and yet it provides hours of fun. I'm sure it was meant for ironic use by geeks with familiarity with comic books, but it really seems to capture the preschool set who've never sat down with one.